We are announcing the deprecation of the Alexa Site Thumbnail service as of March 13, 2009. After this date, the service will be closed to new subscriptions.
I had to read it twice to be sure the word was in fact deprecation and not depreciation or depredation¹. I was still confused. Sure, I've deprecated plenty of programs and Internet services, usually by saying something like "What a worthless piece of crap!" On rare occasions, I've been commended for my self-deprecating wit. But I've never announced a deprecation.
The context cleared things up: "Amazon Web Services is discontinuing the Alexa Site Thumbnail service, which has been providing developers with programmatic access to millions of thumbnail images for the home pages of web sites that were stored in Alexa’s index since July 2006."
Aha! Deprecate can mean discontinue if you're talking about software.
Here's the primary definition of deprecate (from American Heritage Dictionary), the only definition I knew prior to yesterday:
And here's what Wikipedia says about software deprecation:
[F]or a standards document to state that a feature is deprecated is merely a recommendation against using it. This can be contrasted with the word obsolete, which means specifically that the feature has been superseded by a newer version.
The Wikipedia entry also points to "orphaned technology" and—I love this one—"abandonware."
I scurried over to Mike Pope's Blog for backup. Mike's a technical writer who also crafts intelligent prose for non-techies, and I was hoping that he'd devoted at least part of a post to this odd term. But although Mike has used the technical version of deprecate (e.g., "various versions of the offending deprecated items"), he hasn't seen fit to define or discuss it.
I like expanding my vocabulary, but this discovery made me feel sorta obsoleted. Or deprecated. But that's how it goes in technology: one day you're the new new thing, the next day you're abandonware.
¹ Depredation—a predatory attack or raid—seemed almost appropriate here.